Issue 91, Fall 2003
The scientific data on which Americans rely is being manipulated by the Bush Administration, according to a new report, Politics and Science, prepared for Representative Henry Waxman of California by minority staff of the House Committee on Government Reform. It cites examples of censorship and “distortion of scientific information, interference with scientific research and manipulation of scientific committees” in federal agencies responsible for monitoring the nation’s food, water and medicine; medical research and disease control; education; defense; workplace safety; and the environment. For example:
- Lead Poisoning: Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, rejected eminently qualified scientists from the Center for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention in favor of industry consultants, including one who defends exposure levels that most scientists and the government rejected years ago.
- Abortion and Breast Cancer Risk: In the summer of 2002, under pressure from opponents of abortion rights, the National Cancer Institute web site removed information rejecting a purported link between abortion and breast cancer, and, instead, called the evidence “inconclusive.” After protest by members of Congress, NCI convened a conference of leading experts on breast cancer. The panel concluded that “induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk.” On March 21, 2003 the NCI web site was updated with this conclusion.
- Environmental Health: The Environmental Protection Agency altered its report on the environmental impact of a hydraulic fracturing process—a technology for processing oil and gas—which was developed by Halliburton, the company headed previously by Vice President Dick Cheney. EPA reported that the process could result in excessive levels of benzene in drinking water. These data were later revised downwards, “‘based on feedback’ from an industry source.” Environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing were likewise deleted from a White House report.
- Prescription Drug Advertising: The Food and Drug Administration mischaracterized a study on physician attitudes about prescription drug advertising, to support the position advanced by the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, most physicians surveyed did not think that such advertising is beneficial to patients.
- Federally-funded medical research: HIV/AIDS researchers have reportedly been told that grant proposals with words like “gay” and “homosexual” will be subject to “unusual scrutiny.”
- Global Warming: A supposedly comprehensive environmental report omitted any mention of global warming or climate change. White House advisors reviewed a draft that included a section on the subject, but the section was deleted from the final version. The petroleum industry questions the evidence for global warming, which is endorsed by most scientists and the National Academy of Science.
Click here to access the full report.